With focus on helping the hungry, Brown Bag Brigade collections remain high

  • Workers with the Franklin County Community Meals Program collect food donations, with some bags decorated with drawings and inspirational statements, on Sunday at the Second Congregational Church of Greenfield for the yearly Brown Bag Brigade. Contributed Photo/Sam Tarplin

  • Franklin County Community Meals Program Executive Director Rachel Berggren (left) and board of directors member Kurt Pearson (right) help collect food donations Sunday at the Second Congregational Church of Greenfield for the yearly Brown Bag Brigade. Contributed Photo/Sam Tarplin

  • Workers with the Franklin County Community Meals Program collect food donations, with some bags decorated with drawings and inspirational statements, on Sunday at the Second Congregational Church of Greenfield for the yearly Brown Bag Brigade. Contributed Photo/Sam Tarplin

  • Workers with the Franklin County Community Meals Program collect food donations, with some bags decorated with drawings and inspirational statements, on Sunday at the Second Congregational Church of Greenfield for the yearly Brown Bag Brigade. Contributed Photo/Sam Tarplin

  • Workers with the Franklin County Community Meals Program collect food donations, with some bags decorated with drawings and inspirational statements, on Sunday at the Second Congregational Church of Greenfield for the yearly Brown Bag Brigade. Contributed Photo/Sam Tarplin

Staff Writer
Published: 2/22/2021 3:10:04 PM

GREENFIELD — A yearly food drive for the Franklin County Community Meals Program over the weekend drew a typical amount of donations compared to other years. In fact, organizers say the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have generated new interest in volunteering and donating.

The Brown Bag Brigade, one of the major annual drives for the Franklin County Community Meals Program, was held Sunday afternoon at the Second Congregational Church of Greenfield.

The Brown Bag Brigade is named so because donors are encouraged to package individual meals of nonperishables in paper lunch bags. The packaged meals are distributed at the organization’s free meal sites in Greenfield, Turners Falls and Orange.

Donors range from individuals providing only a few bagged meals to local businesses and schools that may be donating dozens or hundreds of bags, said Rachel Berggren, executive director of the Franklin County Community Meals Program.

In typical years, donors bring their brown bags into the church, and count with volunteers how many bags they donated.

This year, because of the pandemic, the donation event lost that social element. Donations were passed out the windows of arriving vehicles, and volunteers gathered and organized them inside.

“What we miss is, we used to sit here and the kids would come in the door, and they’d be so proud of what they did,” said Deb Klein, a member of the board of directors for the Franklin County Community Meals Program.

Even so, interest in the food drive remained at a typically high level, Berggren said. By the end of the event on Sunday, about 1,000 brown bags had been collected, Berggren said, and donations continue to be accepted for a few weeks after the collection event itself. Typically, the whole drive collects about 1,400 brown bags.

In the past year, interest in the Franklin County Community Meals Program has been higher, with more donations and more volunteers than usual, Berggren said.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the pandemic has made many people more willing to give, she said. She guessed that the widespread financial hardship of the pandemic has made many more aware of the reality of hunger.

“Hunger is in the spotlight now. It doesn’t feel like a separate thing out of sight, out of mind,” Berggren said. “It’s more often now, your neighbor needs (food services). People who have never thought about hunger being an issue are now thinking about hunger being an issue.”

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.




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